Saturday 29 February 2020

My February Days

This blog includes an advertisement feature with Calendar Club

I've grown quite fond of February over the last few years, the sudden appearance of the snowdrops always coincides nicely with the lighter days and before we know it we're all chatting about Spring wardrobes, sunny holiday plans and everything seems far more manageable. It's been a busy month for us and I can't believe how much we've crammed in.  Here's what I haven't already shared!

Penshaw Monument

We were quick off the mark with the Calendar Club challenge this month and found ourselves heading out on our adventure the day we turned the calendar over. Our February challenge sent us on a jaunt over the river to Penshaw Monument, somewhere I hadn't visited for many years. Not much had changed other than the beautiful ginger cows sitting at the bottom of the hill and my level of fitness (I do not remember the climb to the top being that hard on my legs). As the Calendar Club Challenge involves sharing a creative photo from the calendar location I spent much of my afternoon leaping about trying to get a jump shot - the outtakes are really something! Don't forget if you want to join in you just need to visit the location pictured in your travel calendar for the month and then share with #calendardclubchallenge for the chance to win a prize. We combined the visit with a sunny stroll round Herrington Country Park (it offers beautiful views of Penshaw Monument so is a must if you're doing the trip) and a visit to the Bakery at Penshaw Farm Shop which deserves an entire paragraph to itself ...

My February Days - Calendar Club Challenge

Cakes for Giants!

Where do I even start with the cakes at the Penshaw Bakery? You'll find the adorable little shop just next to the Penshaw Tearoom and its like a real life Aladdin's Cave if you love cakes as much as me. The counter is completely stacked with delicious homemade cakes and if you order a slice they are cut into very generous wedges that will fill you up for the rest of the day.  Sitting alongside the sponges you'll find a massive selection of biscuits, cream buns, scones and cupcakes all so huge it's like being in a bakery for giants.  Next time you're at Penshaw you really must go!

My February Days - Penshaw Bakery

Afternoon Tea at Jesmond Dene House

We have had the afternoon tea at Jesmond Dene House more than any other in the region but when we heard that it had had a bit of a makeover we couldn't resist booking ourselves a table in the Garden Room for an afternoon of tea and cake. The tea has changed a lot over the years and the recent refurbishment of the restaurant in the hotel has made the experience feel even more beautiful and although the price has leapt up to £29.50 per person it honestly is worth every penny for the impeccable service and beautiful food. Our favourite parts of the new look afternoon tea included an Isle of Mulll Cheese Scone served with Whipped Butter and Red Onion Marmalade and the Granny Smith Apple and Madagascan Vanilla Cheesecake (shaped like an apple!)

My February Days - Jesmond Dene House

Knife Angel Visits Gateshead

The most incredible sculpture arrived in Gateshead this month.  The Knife Angel is made from 100,00 knives surrendered to the police across the country and has been created as a thought provoking piece encouraging discussion and education around the topic of knife crime. During its visit Gateshead committed to deputising 10,000 young people in becoming anti-violence champions and educating our youth on the negative impact that aggression and violence has on our community. We popped by to see it during a busy lunchtime and couldn't believe how quiet it was at the feet of the angel despite the visiting crowds.

My February Days - Knife Angel

Sunday Brunch at The Mal

Anyone fancy an epic Sunday Brunch at Malmaison? Served every week, the menu offers all you can eat Appetisers from the Chef's Table followed by a Main Brunch Plate for £19.95 with dessert added for an additional £3.50 and unlimited Prosecco for £15.00.  After filling our boots with meats, fish, salad and fresh bread we tucked into Eggs California and a Mal Burger followed by the most incredible Sticky Toffee Pudding we have ever had (ordered by Simon but I definitely enjoyed a fair chunk of it!) Such a great way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

My February Days - Sunday Brunch at The Mal

Model for the Day

I got to play model for the afternoon this month when stylist Helenlee Loves asked me to help out at her talk at the Grammers Event held at Ramside. Demonstrating her inspiring Style Code to a room of fashion loving ladies I got to strut about in the most incredible suit from Baukjen which really made me think I need to give smarter dressing a go. With makeup by Amanda Bell and a beautiful new hair do from the ladies at Reef Salons my taste of the limelight was so much fun, even if a lot of my evening was spent getting changed in a dining room and trying to hide from passing waiters.

My February Days - Grammers

The Treehouse Suite at Ramside

Whilst at Ramside I got to enjoy a sneaky look round the brand new treehouse suites which have recently opened. The incredible rooms really are something else and different to anything else we have in the North East. Beautifully luxurious suites in the trees, the rooms have massive beds, outdoor hot tubs and the all important instagrammable copper bath tub. I have obviously been heavily hinting to Simon about booking a stay .... this place screams wedding anniversary treat right?

My February Days - Ramside Treehouse

Dining at Leila Lily's

After declaring Leila Lilys our new favourite bar in Newcastle following our cocktail crawl a few months ago I had been keen to return to try the food. This month I finally made a plan thanks to a too good to ignore 50% off dining deal and popped along one evening after work. I had been a little worried that the flamboyant styling of the restaurant (if you love pink neon lights and eye catching interiors then this is the place for you) would perhaps overshadow the food but was really impressed with their offering and now I'm desperate to return to try out their afternoon tea.

My February Days - Dining at Leila Lilys

Woods Coffee at Tynemouth

With so many amazing coffee shops along the North Tyneside coast I'm sure you can forgive us for taking so long to get ourselves to Woods Coffee, although now we have made our first visit we will most definitely be returning. What a beautiful place - we loved the industrial vibes, incredible looking cakes (I can't believe we didn't actually try one) and come Summer you will definitely find me lounging about in their courtyard, it's quite a sun trap!

My February Days - Woods Coffee

For more adventures from New Girl in Toon make sure you follow me on Instagram.  I post a new photo every day and you will find vlogs from my favourite northern adventures on my highlights.

Wednesday 12 February 2020

Spa Day and Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall

This is an advertisement feature with Slaley Hall

Driving through the stunning Northumberland countryside in the sunshine, singing (pretty badly) along to my favourite tunes as I made my way to Slaley Hall for a Spa Day and Afternoon Tea, I honestly couldn't have been happier. Precious moments like these can be far and few between during the Winter months but when they happen wow do you feel happy to be alive!

If any of you have done the drive to Slaley Hall near Hexham you will know exactly what I'm talking about, the journey to the four star country hotel in Northumberland is spectacular with miles of rolling hills and beautiful countryside to admire as you make your way to the luxury hall. It had only been a month since my last visit for Festive Afternoon Tea but I was more than ready to get better acquainted and experience my first ever spa day there.

Spa Day and Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall

The Spa at Slaley Hall 

Wanting a full day of relaxation we arrived at Slaley Hall at 10:30 am keen to indulge in a Sunday of wellbeing. Welcomed at the spa reception by the loveliest ladies we were given our forms to fill in and shown to the Relaxation Room.

Wow! I have been to a lot of these rooms in spas across the North East but this one was definitely up there with the very best. Walking in from the cold, the Relaxation Room was a bit like receiving a lovely warm and comforting hug. Decked out in squishy sofas and chairs with plenty of magazines to flick through, the room made me wish that my lounge at home could look like that. I could have quite happily spent my entire day in there if the thought of poolside lounging hadn't been tempting me out.

Spa Day at Slaley Hall
I'm not always great at carrying cash (just call me the Queen!) so when I'd realised that I hadn't got the required £1.00 for the locker in the changing room reception were happy to loan me a coin and then gave us a bundle of fluffy extras to ensure the perfect spa experience. Cosy dressing gowns, slippers and towels at the ready we did a quick change into our cozzies and made our way into the spa.

Priorities first, we decided to visit the Spa Café to get ourselves a drink to enjoy. The small kiosk offers a variety of light snacks, drinks and even tubs of Ben & Jerry's for the very best kind of poolside lounging. As well as loungers round the pool there are also plenty of tables and chairs by the café which is a great idea - working our way through a pot of tea whilst sitting at a table in our swimming costumes gave us all of the holiday vibes.

Spa at Slaley Hall

Once we'd finished gossiping over a cuppa it was time to explore the spa, starting off with a visit to the Sauna and Steam Room before taking a refreshing dip in the pool. We absolutely loved the design of the Spa at Slaley Hall, the rocks and foliage made it all seem pretty tropical and, perhaps the best part, there's a slide!

Yes the spa at Slaley Hall has a slide!

Spa Day Northumberland - Slaley Hall

Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall 

Despite having over three hours to chill out in the spa the time seemed to vanish and before we knew it it was time for Afternoon Tea. We had the option of heading back to the changing rooms to put our clothes back on or dining in our dressing gowns and of course we went for the second option. There's something so lovely and cosy about eating Afternoon Tea in your dressing gown - it's the ultimate Sunday treat.

In the past I have been known to jump straight out of the pool dripping in water and then wrap myself up in my dressing gown but if you are planning on treating yourself to food in your gown I highly recommend attempting to keep it dry as you will be so thankful later.  I had been very careful to ensure that my dressing gown and spa slippers had been kept completely dry (a skill it's taken me years to acquire!) so all we had to do was change into dry swimsuits and we were good to go.

Slaley Hall - Afternoon Tea

There are three restaurants at Slaley Hall but if you are dining as part of a spa day your food will be served in Mr Kennedy's Brasserie which offers amazing views across the terrace (on the two occasions I've enjoyed Afternoon Tea there I've had some great squirrel spots). There were a few other tables dining in their gowns which meant we didn't feel awkward at all - it was a great touch ensuring that all of the spa guests were dining in the same area together. 

The presentation of Afternoon Tea at Slaley Hall is fantastic with a few different variations on offer. The gentleman's style Afternoon Tea has been renamed "The Bookcase" and comes presented on its own little shelf crammed with treats including Mini Steak & Ale Pie, Cheese Scones and Doughnuts & Dips.   If your appetite is a little smaller then "The Basket" is a perfect alternative, costing £10.50 per person it includes Warm Plain and Fruit Scones with Cream and Preserve with freshly made Madeleines.

We opted for the Traditional Afternoon Tea which is served in a beautiful chrome birdcage, costing £19.50 per person it was absolutely beautiful and laden with treats, deciding to add a tipple on the side we both enjoyed a glass of Prosecco for an extra £5.00 each, the perfect way to ensure our Afternoon Tea was extra special.

Slaley Hall - Afternoon Tea Cakestand
Starting off at the bottom we made our way through the sandwiches - Duck's Egg & Watercress Mayonnaise, Smoked Salmon & Prawn with Dill and Rocket "Salad Cream", English Salted Cucumber with Apple Crème Fraiche (it took us a while to work out what that one was!) and Poached Chicken with Lime & Coriander. Served on really lovely fresh bread they were absolutely delicious.

Moving on up it was time for the scones and we were thrilled to discover that they  had been served warm and we had a plain and fruit scone each. They were served with proper Cornish clotted cream and red berry preserve which I spread across each so generously I ended up with jam all over my hands!

Of course my favourite part of any Afternoon Tea is always the sweet tier and the cakes at Slaley Hall really hit the mark. Beautifully presented and delicious we were treated to Chocolate & Caramel Opera Cake with Crisp Brandy Snap Tuille, Macarons and Lemon & Poppy Seed Cake with Lemon Curd Cream. I'm still not sure how we managed to polish all of those off.

Slaley Hall - Afternoon Tea Cake

Treatments at Slaley Hall

As I'm always wanting a nap after afternoon tea I was more than ready to make my way from the brasserie back to the spa for a treatment.

There are nine beautiful treatment rooms at Slaley Hall and a huge variety of therapies to choose from with plenty of body treatments, signature spa rituals, nail treatments and facials. As partners of Elemis you are guaranteed the most luxurious experience if you book a treatment at the spa and as a huge fan of the skincare brand it was this collaboration that made me so excited to try Slaley Hall spa for the first time.

There's one treatment I can never resist - a hot stones massage. I've had it at multiple spas across the region, and if you've never tried one before please make it your 2020 resolution to book yourself in for one as they are honestly incredible.  The Hot Stones Massage at Slaley Hall costs £79.00 for a 50 minute full body massage using aromatherapy oils and and warm volcanic stones.

The Hot Stones Massage at Slaley Hall was absolutely beautiful, I felt so relaxed I easily could have drifted off and then spent the rest of the afternoon just dozing on the bed - it was just what I needed to beat the January blues. If you're looking for a way to treat yourself this Winter then I highly recommend booking yourself in for a treatment.

If you fancy experiencing a spa day at Slaley Hall yourself then there are some really fantastic packages to choose from, making Slaley one of the most affordable spas in the region. Some of my favourite offers include:

Elemis Experience with Afternoon Tea (Mon to Thurs £75.00 / Fri and Sun £85.00) - 1 x 50 minute Signature Spa Ritual with Afternoon Tea and a glass of fizz

Twilight Spa (Weds and Thurs from 6:00 pm £42.00) - Spa Access with a 3 course meal and a glass of bubbly

Spa with Me Experience (Mon to Thurs £134.00 for two / Fri and Sun £154.00 for two) - 1 x 50 minute Signature Spa Ritual each with Light Lunch

Click here to see the full list of Spa Day Packages available

I really loved my first ever spa experience at Slaley Hall and will definitely be returning next time I'm need of a pamper day.

Slaley Hall Northumberland

Find Slaley Hall at:

NE47 0BX

01434 673 350

We received a complimentary spa day for two including massages and afternoon tea in exchange for this honest review. 

Wednesday 5 February 2020

10 of The Best Valentines Ideas in the North East

Includes advertisement features with Wild Northumbria, Ramside Hall, Walwick Hall, Malmaison and Crab Manor 

I think many of us probably don't celebrate Valentines Day - overpriced chocolates, crowded restaurants and huge teddy bears don't really do it for us and I know most of you will agree. However, I do love an excuse to spend time with my husband so couldn't resist sharing the best Valentines ideas in the North East - not necessarily for February 14th, you can enjoy these with your love at any time!

10 of The Best Valentines Ideas in the North East

Snuggle on the Sofa at the Everyman Cinema

The Everyman Cinema in Newcastle has become our date night cinema of choice since it arrived in the Toon last year. Although not the cheapest place to catch the latest blockbuster it is definitely worth the extra pennies for a special occasion and ticks all of the boxes when it comes to the snuggle factor. The comfy sofas and cushions make it just as comfortable as your own home and the at seat waiter service means you can enjoy a very luxurious cinema experience. Be warned, once you've seen a film at Everyman it's very hard not to want to go every weekend!

Go Off Grid at Wild Northumbrian

I'm sure we can't be the only couple who sometimes ignore each other in favour of mindlessly scrolling on our phones. I dash out of work each night to get to Haymarket, just so I can meet my husband and we can sit together on the bus and ignore each other whilst playing on our phones. So perhaps the very best gift you can give yourselves this Valetnines is a chance to go off grid. Wild Northumbrian is the ultimate glamping escape in the wilds of Northumberland where you can shack up in a romantic yurt for two. With no phone signal and plenty of peace and quiet - cuddle up and enjoy an endless sky of stars as you cook out on the camp fire and spend time together with no distractions.

Read about our experience at Wild Northumbrian here.

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Wild Northumbrian

Dip in the Ramside Hall Private Infinity Pool

I am more than a little obsessed with Ramside Hall at the moment so when it came to sharing the best Valentines Ideas in the North East I just had to include them. Although the luxury hotel has so many options to make the perfect Valentines (have you seen their brand new Treehouse Suites?) it's the Private Infinity Pool at Ramside Spa that has me weak at the knees. Available to private hire you can enjoy uninterrupted chill time in your very own pool offering great views across the Ramside Hall estate. Available from only £30.00 for the two of you, if you're feeling extra fancy you can arrange to have yourself some nibbles from Fusion and a cheeky glass of Prosecco to enjoy poolside.

Indulge in Afternoon Tea at Walwick Hall

My husband had never had an afternoon tea until he met me and now he's quite the connoisseur of cake stands and it is one of our favourite things to do together. If you want some really lovely quality time with your other half, afternoon tea is one of the very best ways to spend an afternoon. We always have our best conversations whilst tucking into scones and sharing a teapot. One of the loveliest afternoon teas in the North East is at Walwick Hall - enjoy your cakestand in a beautiful lounge with views across Northumberland and the most incredible treats you'll ever experience. I promise the setting at Walwick Hall really does provide the most romantic afternoon tea for you and your love.

Read about our experience of afternoon tea at Walwick Hall here

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Walwick Hall

Enjoy a Bar Crawl round the Toon

With so many incredible new bars in Newcastle sometimes the simplest Valentines ideas are the best. If you're yet to discover some of the newest watering holes in the Toon surely a big booze up with your Valentines is the excuse you've been waiting for? We have ice-bars and gin emporiums, flower walls and swing seats and don't forget the old favourites. Nothing beats a jaunt around Newcastle indulging in some day drinking and with Dry January a distant memory it's time to discover a new favourite for Valentines.

Read about our latest bar crawl round Newcastle here

Go on a Llama Trek 

Taking a llama for a walk probably isn't the first thing that springs to mind when you're coming up with the best Valentines ideas but this is honestly one of the best things that Simon and I have ever done together and you really don't know romance until you've dashed up a hill with a llama. Once upon a Llama do organised treks up Catbells which offers the most incredible views across Derwent Water - very romantic! Although climbing up hills in the Lake District isn't the most relaxing of walks, you will definitely be united in your adventure and if you are feeling extra romantic you can share a llama with your love.

Read about our experience of Llama Trekking here

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Llama Trek

Hire Bikes at Wallington

If you're more of an adventurous couple then how about spending a Valentines inspired date cycling your way round the Dragon Cycle Trail at the National Trust estate at Wallington? Bike hire is available on site or you can take your own.  Spend your afternoon whizzing up and down the Northumberland hills, speeding your way through woodlands and admiring the beautiful views. For an extra bit of romance pack a picnic and make a day of it!

Read about our experience of the cycle trail at Wallington here

Splash out at Leila Lilys

I think we all have a list of fancier restaurants that we've been wanting to try for ages but have been putting off, I love that Valentines presents the perfect excuse to splash out and finally book a table somewhere lovely. My current obsession is Leila Lilys and since trying the food for the first time recently I have not stopped dreaming about a return visit. Perfectly presented dishes of delicious food in the most romantic setting, I can't think of anywhere better to celebrate Valentines.

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Leila Lilys

Escape to The Crab & Lobster

A lovely hotel stay is our favourite way to spend time together and with so many beautiful places in the region to spend the night it can be tough to choose where to head. One of our favourite discoveries of last year was The Crab & Lobster in Yorkshire who have the most beautiful suites with private hot tubs if you really want to treat yourselves. With great decor, an incredible restaurant and a hidden bar tap (yes it really does exist!) Crab Manor is one of the most beautiful places to spend time away with your partner this Valentines.

Read about our experience of the Crab & Lobster here

Have Brunch at Malmaison

If you're a couple who have a shared passion for food then I need to point you in the direction of Sunday Brunch at The Malmaison on the Newcastle Quayside. Enjoy a "help yourself" feast at the Chef's Table with mouth watering appetisers including fresh salads, platters of seafood and charcuterie boards before settling down for a brunch dish, main or Sunday Roast. Share spoons and enjoy the incredible Sticky Toffee Pudding or treat yourself to bottomless Prosecco.

Valentines Ideas in the North East - Brunch at Malmaison

I hope this has inspired you to plan something a little different for Valentines this year and acts as a reminder that spending time with your loved one isn't just something for 14 February.

This blog includes past collaborations with restaurants and we enjoyed complimentary overnight breaks with Wild Northumbria and Crab Manor, a spa day at Ramside Hall and brunch at Malmaison.  
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